Woman who starved grandson to death set to testify at his coroner's inquest

TORONTO – A woman convicted of fatally starving her five-year-old grandson is expected to testify in person today at a coroner’s inquest into his death.

Elva Bottineau is currently serving a life sentence at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., with no chance of parole for 22 years for second-degree murder in Jeffrey Baldwin’s death.

The coroner’s inquest, which has been hearing evidence since September, will shift its location for Bottineau’s anticipated two days of testimony to accommodate the security concerns.

Bottineau requested standing about halfway through the inquest and coroner Peter Clark approved it, ruling that standing must be given to anyone with a “direct and substantial interest” in an inquest.

The inquest has heard that Bottineau and her partner Norman Kidman severely neglected Jeffrey, who by the end of his short life in 2002 had wasted away to the same weight as on his first birthday and he couldn’t lift his own head.

Meanwhile, city of Toronto workers plan today to replace a tree planted in Jeffrey’s memory in Greenwood Park that was recently vandalized.

Rob Andrusevich, with the city’s parks department, says it appears that someone tore off the tree’s branches and city staff plan to plant a new one.

A bench that was also part of the memorial for Jeffrey was removed by workers so that it could be refurbished, and it’s expected to be returned today also, Andrusevich says.

Both Bottineau and Kidman had previously convictions for child abuse when they were granted custody of Jeffrey and three siblings — something the Catholic Children’s Aid Society only discovered in its files after Jeffrey’s death.

The family’s caseworker has testified that she had no concerns about Bottineau, who she thought was a reliable pillar of support when compared to Jeffrey’s often-volatile teenage parents, so she never conducted any records checks on her or Kidman.

Had those checks been done, workers would have found a disturbing history riddled with child abuse.

After Bottineau’s first baby died of pneumonia in 1969 doctors found multiple untreated fractures and she was convicted of assault causing bodily harm.

Bottineau then had two more children, who were made Crown wards following a severe beating by Kidman that landed them in hospital. He was convicted of two counts of assault causing bodily harm.

Those two children later alleged horrific abuse and neglect, including being tied to their beds and locked in dog crates.

After those two kids were removed from the home, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society supervised Bottineau’s care of her and Kidman’s three daughters for a time.

There were records of abuse investigations in the following years, including allegations made about some children Bottineau cared for as a foster “day mom.”

Two different psychological evaluations cast major doubts on Bottineau’s ability to care for children.

The CCAS has implemented many changes since Jeffrey’s death, including various iterations of record-keeping systems, but a CCAS manager has testified that gaps still remain.

The coroner’s inquest is not looking to assign blame, but rather is exploring systemic issues surrounding Jeffrey’s death. The jury can make recommendations aimed at preventing such situations in the future.

Bottineau’s testimony will be restricted so that she cannot try to reargue her conviction, though some of the lawyers involved in the inquest have questioned whether, with her IQ of 69, will be able to follow instructions barring her from broaching certain topics.

The inquest only got underway 11 years after Jeffrey’s death because it was only in 2012 that Bottineau exhausted all of her appeals.

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